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Imams in Georgia are joining Muslims around the world in praising the discovery of an ancient Qur’an manuscript in a British museum. The University of Birmingham announced Wednesday that it had discovered multiple chapters of the Islamic holy book written on animal skin carbon dated to 568-645 CE, making them perhaps the oldest fragments of the Qur’an in existence.
“This means that the parts of the Qur’an that are written on this parchment can, with a degree of confidence, be dated to less than two decades after (the) death (of the Muslim prophet),” said Birmingham University professors David Thomas and Nadir Dinshaw. “These portions must have been in a form that is very close to the form of the Qur’an read today, supporting the view that the text has undergone little or no alteration and that it can be dated to a point very close to the time it was believed to be revealed.”
Muslims believe that the Qur’an is a message from God that was delivered to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) via the Angel Gabriel over a 23-year period between approximately 610 and 632 CE.
“Personally this news brought nothing but firmness to what I already believed in my heart to the words of Allah,” said Ahmad Jafari, imam of the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta. “Allah himself stated in the Qur’an that the preservation of his book is his own responsibility.”
Another Georgia imam said that the news was just as significant for religious scholars.
“Personally, I felt this was a great discovery for the academic world,” said Imam Arshad Anwar, leader of the Roswell Community Masjid. “There is already plenty of evidence that the Quran we have today is the same recited by the Prophet (saw) and his companions. Unfortunately, some in the academic world, and most of the general population, don't quite understand the finer points of Quranic sciences such as the variant recitations and dialects which causes them to think that there are discrepancies or contradictions in the various readings or writings of the Quran.”
But, Imam Anwar added, “this type of discovery is a simpler form of evidence that others not familiar with Quranic sciences can comprehend as well.”
Birmingham University received the ancient pages decades ago from a British explorer who acquired the text during his travels in the Middle East. For years, the museum was unaware of their significance as perhaps the oldest existing record of the Muslim holy book.
“Consisting of two parchment leaves, the Qur’an manuscript contains parts of Suras (chapters) 18 to 20, written with ink in an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi,” the museum said in a statement. “For many years, the manuscript had been misbound with leaves of a similar Qur’an manuscript, which is datable to the late seventh century.”
But modern technology allowed the museum to finally distinguish and date the chapters.
“I loved the words of Dr. Yasir Qadhi and how he mentioned that it is all part of Allah's plan that this document ended up in the hands of a people who had the means to protect it,” Imam Anwar said. “It just shows us how Allah works in magnificent and the wisest of ways. We may have been crying over losing these artifacts from the Muslim world while not realizing that we may not have had the means to protect them!”
Imam Jafari said the discovery should inspire Muslims to develop greater faith in their religion.
“This news should be an eye opener for all the Muslims that might be losing their way that the promises of Allah are true,” Jafari said. “And there's no greater example than this new research. Today, our fellow non-Muslims are even giving testimony to this being the most preserved book.”
Imam Anwar hopes that the discovery, which was widely reportedly in secular media throughout the world, will lead non-Muslims to learn more about the Islamic holy book.
“What I really hope for is that this discovery will spark an interest in people and they will start Googling "the Quran" and eventually exposing themselves to its teachings,” Imam Anwar said. “I really hope more and more people will be exposed to Islam and realize the reality of their own lives and find their path to peace!”
Birmingham University plans to put the manuscript on public display from Friday, October 2, through Sunday, October 25 at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
Edward Mitchell is an Atlanta attorney who serves as News Editor of AtlantaMuslim.com and previously worked as a freelance reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Community Center of Atlanta and recently joined the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. Edward received his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College and his graduate degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as president of the law school's Muslim Students Association. Follow him on Twitter @edmovie.
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